Meanwhile, in the royal capital's grand palace, the ninth king of Faustian threw a priceless ceramic vase from the far east across the courtyard.
He yelled, pointing at the group of men in black prostrating in front of him.
"Fools! Where is my Angelina? You call that protecting her?! If anything happens to her, I'll exterminate your households!"
The man's face was a mask, but his body shook in utter terror.
"Your Majesty, the princess was determined to find the prince on the frontlines. I dared not stop Her Highness," he said, digging even further into the dirt with his forehead.
"What nonsense?! You... you..."
"The princess insisted on finding the first prince and you might as well let her. She is as safe as can be with the shadow guards keeping an eye on her," the queen's voice soothed from beside the kind.
"Hmph!" the king snorted angrily, his fury only growing.
The princess, Angelina, was only a beginner-rank Lehrling caster. How could she sneak out of the palace without his notice? Someone had covered for her, and his suspicions immediately turned to his queen, his current queen.
It was pointless to get angry, however. His energy would be better spent going after his foolish daughter.
"How many men are riding on the princess?" he asked.
"All of... um... Earth Unit Three," the man replied.
The king's gaze froze. The room was suddenly frigid.
"Well done, very well done! My beloved daughter left the palace for the frontlines alone, and you only have one squad riding on her?!" he howled.
"It's alright, dear," the queen chimed again, "We are short enough on men that even the princess can't be lavished with guards."
Despite her attempts at sounding warm towards the princess, no one didn't know exactly how indifferent she was to whatever the daughter of the king's previous wife's fate might be.
The king, however, calmed down some at her words, but his rage continued to fume just below the surface.
The queen, of course, noticed the change and kept silent. She knew if she spoke out of turn her husband would turn his rage to her and she could do without it.
The king collected his thoughts, then spoke.
"How many shadow guards are standing by in the capital?"
The attendant to whom he had directed the question was the king's close confidant and he answered without hesitation or a moment of thought.
"Sky Units Two and Four, and Earth Units One, Two, Five and Eight are there."
"Have Sky Unit Two and Earth Units One, Two and Five go to my daughter and bring her back."
"Yes, Your Majesty!" the attendant saluted, despite his acquiescence, he did have to point out the gap that left in his king's personal security, "If we dispatch the squads, the capital will lack men. Besides that, Your Majesty's safety..."
It wasn't just the attendant. The queen and the man in black also hoped that the king could withdraw his orders as there weren't enough forces to protect the capital and the king. Fortunately, they were at the king's chamber in the side palace. If the ministers knew about the king's order, more would dissuade him from executing the order.
"Stop talking all at once! As long as he is around, the capital and I will be fine."
The queen's expression cooled as realisation hit her.
"Is Your Majesty referring to..."
The king cast her a sidelong glance. The queen had married him three years prior, and she was Margrave Kent's little sister. Margrave Kent was one of the lords in the Ligia Union north of Faustian. It was a marriage of state; a political affair with little emotion, good or bad, involved.
The frontlines had been stable for a while now, and people had started to realise the benefits of the arrangement. The marriage set the nobles' minds at ease. The kingdom was prevailing, but the many years of battle had ruined Faustian's economy. All the nobles were intimidated by the enormous taxes and piling debt. If it weren't for help from a few friendly neighbouring kingdoms, and if not for Ligia's food supply or the support from the Overempire of Aomar, Faustian might not have stood its ground in this war.
"Herr Romm already reached the threshold of an Erdritter," the king mumbled after a moment of thought.
The queen and the man in black looked shocked. On the other hand, the attendant didn't seem surprised; he obviously knew about it beforehand.
Late at night, the gate of the capital, Felor, secretly opened. A team of men rode away from the capital under the dark sky. These were the secret forces the king had dispatched to locate the princess.
The leader of Sky Unit Two was an introverted man. Before departing, the king appointed him secretly to protect the princess' life at all costs. The whereabouts of the princess were leaked by some opposing forces. As the princess of a kingdom at war with Shalor, and the pearl in the king's palm, the Shalorians would definitely take advantage of every opportunity to get back at Faustian as they were on the verge of defeat. Of course, being the head of the secret forces for so many years, he easily figured that the culprit was the person who shared a bed with the king.
Nonetheless, he was only the king's dagger. He needed not to worry about such affairs, only the mission itself. "We shall arrive at Shalor in three days!" the head of the secret forces said.
"Yes!" the surrounding soldiers replied in unison.
The capital of Faustian was thousands of kilometres away from Shalor. It would take at least a week for a person to travel that far on horseback without rest. However, these people were far from ordinary. They were the shadow guards of Faustian, a sharp dagger that only obeyed the king and his heir. All members of the shadow guards were at least low-rank Knechts, while the squad leaders of the Earth Units were all high-rank Knechts. The head of shadow guards and the leader of Sky Unit Two himself was a peak-level Knecht at the edge of becoming a Ritter.
Although their lineup was formidable, he couldn't afford to delay. As of now, the princess only had one squad protecting her. Furthermore, she had been missing for four days now. In other words, when they arrive at the Shalorian border, the princess would definitely have entered the enemy's territory ahead of them. Hence, they had to travel as fast as possible!
In the palace, after the king dispatched the shadow guards, he immediately invited a caster that resided in the capital to relay a flame transmission to the prince to get him to send his subordinates to escort Angelina.
"What?! Princess Angelina is coming to the frontlines to find me?" In the flame screen, the young Prince Kenzir could be seen fuming. Unlike Princess Angelina who was pampered and sheltered by their father and elder brother, and unfamiliar with the ways of the world, when Prince Kenzir received the news, he immediately knew that someone was manipulating the situation to get Angelina into harm's way. The person could be none other than...
"Dispatch the cavalry division towards the borders to receive Princess Angelina at once!" he ordered.
"But... our forces already spread thin to encircle Audis. If we retreat our cavalry unit now..." a general said. The general didn't mean to disregard Princess Angelina's safety, but war was war. If they were to prioritise the princess' safety now and allowed Shalor's royal family or others to escape, the war would be prolonged. This was blatantly wasting the soldiers' lives. Moreover, could Faustian afford to prolong the war?
Other generals also stood up for the general. Since the cavalry division was Faustian's ace and the primary force to breach Audis, if they were to withdraw now, the consequences might be far worse than expected.
"The person we are talking about here is my sister! If anyone is stopping me, you're making a death wish!" Prince Kenzir drew his sword with a bloodshot look in his eyes. Without a doubt, he was at his boiling point. He hated his father for not being able to protect his little sister. He hated his comrades for not allowing him to dispatch forces to rescue her.
As the soldiers outside the tent heard the prince shouting and the sound of a sword being drawn, they immediately rushed in to safeguard the prince while pointing their swords at the opposing generals. In a flash, silence permeated the room shown in the flame screen and the generals finally calmed down from the threat of the sword.
"Actually, it's no big deal to dispatch one cavalry division," one of the generals said.
"Yeah, if they rush towards the princess and escort her back post haste, they can make it in time."
"Yes... I agree..."
"Yeah... it is not a big deal..."
"The Shalorians won't be able to react in such a short time..."
The people in the tent started to get rowdy again, but this time, the voices were all in agreement to rescue the princess.
"Calm down, Kenzir!" the king called out from the flame screen. The prince calmed down after he heard his father's words. "Dispatch one company of cavalrymen and have the rest provide support. We cannot let the war go on any longer. In two months, I want to see the Faustian's banner of the lion on Audis' watchtower!" Faustian IX said with a deep yet firm look at his eldest son.
Prince Kenzir finally accepted the king's suggestion and ordered the soldiers to go escort the princess. However, it was still a mystery if they could find the princess in time with only one company of cavalrymen. He could only hope that she was nearby the border.
The flame transmission was coming to an end. Actually, it only lasted so long because there was a high-rank Lehrling operating it. In Faustian, there were no more than five casters of such calibre. Right before the flame transmission came to an end, Prince Kenzir raised his head and shouted, "If anything happens to Angelina, someone will pay for it!"